Gaining information from ELT content and illustrations

Dennis Johnson

This article comes from the Ventures Newsletter and focusses on the Reading strand of the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education. How to integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitively, as well as in words.

We may think that reading is all about words. But CCRS Reading Anchor 7 reminds us not to overlook illustrations, which can be important for understanding key ideas in the accompanying text. In this article, we will look at three different kinds of illustrations that beginning-level students may encounter.


The skill of map reading involves decoding both text and symbols. This map has minimal text. However, students need to recognize various symbols, such as a police car, which indicates the location of a police station. The teacher can challenge students to identify what the various symbols represent before orienting them to the relative locations of these places on the map.

Example #1(from Ventures Basic, p. 68, Exercise 1)


The skill of reading extends to such real-life documents as advertisements. Here is an example of a weekly supermarket ad that includes pictures alongside descriptions of items and prices. The pictures not only give clues to the meaning of the grocery items, but they also relate to the classifiers presented in this unit, such as bag, bottle, and package.

Example #2 (from Ventures 1, p. 94, Exercise 1)

General illustrations.

The illustrations that frequently accompany reading passages can help the reader to decode important information. The first illustration shows a man standing on the top of a step ladder. The pre-reading activity involves three questions that focus attention on the illustration and help students to think about the dangers of working on a ladder. Both of the illustrations on this page give important clues to the meaning of the words on the accompanying warning label.

Example #3 (from Ventures, 2, p. 50, Exercises 1 & 2)

In summary, illustrations are an important part of the reading process. As teachers, we need to help our students focus on them to unlock meaning.

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